Category: joy

Plunging into 2016

The 1st Annual ISLAGIATT New Year’s Day Backward Xterra Triathlon

The plan was hatched in the usual way 2 weeks earlier.

Last year we celebrated with a Sufferfest, which was the perfect start to a year in which we would quest for Knighthood of Sufferlandria. With new goals and schemes, we needed an appropriately epic kick-off for 2016

For Kristin, it’s The Year of Dirt – gravel rides, Xterras, CX, plus the full 3 Day PMC. For Nancy, it’s The Year of Epic Cycling, including theBattenkill & PMC. For me, it’s The Year to Bring it All Together – all 3 disciplines, better nutrition & injury prevention. This terrible idea brought it all together and the plunge into the icy, cold water would seal the deal!

As usual in New England, the weather necessitated plan modifications. Recon on the course the day before, revealed too much ice on the trails to make the run leg hit our minimum fun level – so it would be a road run. The crunchy trails were fine on mountain bike, so Fatbikes would be perfect.

We met at noon and it was on! This was actually the first time we had all run together. We pretty much crushed the hilly run, each setting a PR for the number of times we stopped to play with items on lawns along the way.

After the second longest transition in history, we were in the woods, crunching through the snow on Fatbikes. (Special thanks to Anders for letting me borrow his Xmas present.) We covered every trail we could find and following Kristin’s lead, we opted for riding across streams despite the availability of a wooden bridge. We discovered beautiful structures crafted from fallen trees and only a single set of footprints in the first snow of the winter. It was colder in the woods than we expected based on the run, so we determined the ride duration by the discomfort of Kristin’s hands, knowing that body heat was required for the final leg.

We peeled off our warm layers and waited in the warm cars for the arrival of the life guards, Jason & Steve. (Safety is a priority, even amidst craziness) Once the men arrived, we forced ourselves from the warmth out into the cold air. (For her first plunge, Nancy was the most prepared with the awesome robe) Just to add to the shenanigans, we added a shot of Irish liquid courage and started the swim lap on our Garmins. Kristin and I set up for a last pre-swim picture and realized that Nancy was marching stubbornly into the reservoir muttering, “I can do this, I’m a triathlete, dammit.” We dashed in to catch her and take the plunge into the new year, together.

The water was just frickin’ cold – stupid cold, but exhilarating…life affirming… adventure commencing.

It’s amazing what epic adventures you can create with friends who are willing to jump in with both feet with you. Not just in sport, but in all aspects of life, I feel lucky to have many wonderful friends who are willing to jump in with me! We support each other. We rely on each other. We humor each other. We challenge each other.
Together, we live the kind of life you feel; where there’s no doubt we’re alive.

Polar Bear Roar

best friends & hopscotch

Katie & me at the beachEvery March 7, I step into a time machine and remember the adventures of my childhood with my best friend, Katie. Let me be more specific, she was my best friend in the whole wide world.

We met when we were six and seven and grew up across the street from each other until I went to college. We were fast friends. We were part of one another’s families and our presence at either of the two houses was considered being home.

We had limitless imaginations and such conviction in our ideas, that never occurred to us we couldn’t pull off even the craziest of our schemes. My 9 and 11 year old are impressed with our adventures, but these are some of their favorites:

We were daring! My grandparents were very fancy…they had a garage door opener for their condo garage. And it was less than a half mile from our house. Katie and I, being extreme hooligans, hopped on our bikes and rode with the borrowed garage door opener to the condo. We opened the garage and pedaled away! (giggling with excitement and the fear of being busted) Oh yeah, and then we did it again!

We were Makers! The lemonade stand on the corner on Cottage and Grove was a staple of our summer plans. We were shrewd with our marketing. I’m certain that pretending to be customer and pretending to buy lemonade created buzz and demand for our Country Time sugary treat. We had only one failed venture. Our expansion into individual packets of condiments was a rare and dismal failure. It turns out people don’t want to buy relish or mustard on their drive home.

We were constructive! We could build a fort anywhere and out of just about anything. And we did. We had forts in our backyards, in other people’s backyards, under porches, and in people’s backyard sheds. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I saw neighborhood kids bringing a rolled up carpet through my yard and moving into my tent. I suppose it would be one thing if my kids were with them, but by themselves? And the fort / wall which we constructed out of snow across the entire street raises the most questions at my house. ” You stopped cars? You tried to charge tolls? You lied down in the fort on the road?” and “Your parents let you do that?”

These are just small bits of our adventures. There were roof tops and attics, trees climbed and holes dug, potions and plays made. And there was a lot of hopscotch.

For happy go lucky sorts of kids, Katie and I would transform into intensely competitive rivals in hopscotch. It would be all fun and good when we were in the easy stuff – the onsies, twosies, but but 7’s and 8’s – forget it. No mercy. If you were near the chalk line, you were done. By the end of a heated hopscotch match our friendship would dissolve. We’d stomp off to our own homes with screaming declarations of officially being enemies and “never, ever, being friends ever again!”

The next day, all would be forgiven or actually forgotten. We’d be best friends in the whole wide world like there was never a doubt. There were more adventures. There was a lot more hopscotch.

March 7 is Katie’s (aka sister Kate) birthday. And every year on this day I think about how lucky I am to have these amazing memories and stories and how joyful we were. I also think about all the other things that happened in our lives along the way in each of our childhoods. Having my best friend in the whole world right across the street always made me feel okay and normal – even when things weren’t.

Happy Birthday, Katie! Love you like a sister! Katie & me w dad

Atalanta, my first #likeagirl

My social media feeds are streaming pictures of women running #likeagirl!

The #likeagirl ad was inspiring when it made the Facebook rounds last fall, and even more so as a Superbowl ad. This simple idea has big momentum after Sunday night’s time slot. People are catching on – it’s not okay to use “like a girl” as a put down. This is a positive shift.

#likeagirlWhen I was growing up, I had my own version of #likeagirl.  I remember feeling strong and capable when I listened to the story of Atalanta* on my Free to Be, You an Me record.  (yes, that says record.)

If you’ve never heard or seen it before and you have 5 minutes – click here. 

I’ve watched it several times today. I still cry at the end.

I love how the determined Atalanta heads to the field and trains until she’s confident in her ability to race. The blending of Marlo Thomas’ and Alan Alda’s voices sends me right back to the excitement I felt when I was 7 and rooting for Atalanta to beat her suitors.

There was, and still is, something so powerful about the ambiguous ending. Nothing is written. Everything was free choice. And in any choice – there could be happiness.

*note: There’s commentary about this not being the ‘real’ story of Atalanta, and that’s cool, but this is the story that inspired me personally and was my #likeagirl – that’s all I’m sayin’.

Unexpected Joys of Running

Monster Inc.
image courtesy of Pixar

Sully and Mike Wizowski were right.  There’s more energy in laughter.

This past Sunday, I ran the Ashland Half Marathon.  The plan was to leave the garmin at home and run in a tutu and fairy wings,  1. It was so close to Halloween and 2. To remind myself that I was doing this one for fun.  Somewhere, maybe 15 yards past the start line, I started making plans to ditch the wings which were flapping all around.

And then I ran past a group of spectators.  The youngest were toddlers.  I was unprepared for their un-containable excitement.  There were squeals and smiles and exclamations – “mom, look there’s a fairy!”  Wow!  You can’t get that from from two cups of coffee!  And it was contagious – I smiled.  All the runners around me smiled – and we kept running.

13.1 (hilly) miles.  It never stopped.  The squeals, the excitement, the smiles.  They came from toddlers most readily, but there were no shortages from parents and grandparents. Each and every time it happened – I smiled wider and felt a surge of energy.  The wings kept flapping and bumping my arms, but there was no way I could ditch them, anymore.  I was hooked on this and I was actually having a blast  – running a half marathon.

When the race was done, I waited in line for my complimentary massage. It was such a hilly course, my quads were burning and my hamstrings were tight, as expected.  But for the first time, I was aware of sore muscles where I’ve never felt sore.  My cheeks.  The muscles in my cheeks were actually tight and ached from smiling for 13.1 miles.

I accomplished my race goal for Sunday – “have fun.”  And as an added bonus, powered by laughter and joy, I also set a new half marathon PR.  Go figure.

I may re-examine my perspective on endurance and trying hard.

Alex running in a tutu
this is why my cheek muscles ached.